The invention of FartCloud Fizz started off as a gag gift, and the only place you could buy it was at party supply stores. Naturally, middle school boys were the first adopters. You dropped a tablet in a glass of water, then whoever drank it would have visible farts for hours. Whenever they cut one, audible or not, a bright blue cloud could be seen to waft out from the butt, then slowly rise, expand, and dissipate over the course of several minutes. For the sustained hilarity of eighth-graders, nothing had ever been better. But it didn’t end there.
The tablets, you see, had no taste. You could sneak them into anyone’s drink, or crush them up and sprinkle them on their food, and they’d never know. All of a sudden what they thought was going to be a silent and stealthy little toot turned into a peacock-like display of ass-blasting shame. Lives were ruined.
Angry wives spiked their husband’s dinner and captured video of the boiling blue clouds he emitted throughout the evening–evidence for establishing a pattern of spousal abuse. Co-workers trapped each other into unmasking the identity of whoever farted in the elevator. It wasn’t uncommon to be waiting for the elevator and then, when the doors slid open, be confronted with a bright blue haze hanging over everyone. People started quitting their jobs.
A presidential candidate who was seen to cut one in a vivid display during a televised debate may have lost the election for other reasons, but the cloud of blue shame lingering around her horrified face certainly did her no favors. Later, the actual president gave a State of the Union address while farting continuously at the podium in the House chamber where, judging from the light blue mist that hung like cigarette smoke over everyone, serial farting was not an uncommon or partisan practice.
People beat their fellow passengers to death on commercial airliners, or yanked open the door, depressurizing the cabin, to throw themselves or someone else out. The news anchors reporting on it farted their way through their broadcasts. Friendships, marriages, careers all came to abrupt ends under noxious blue clouds.
It wasn’t that people were farting any more than they used to, or that the farts were any stinkier. The problem was that now our private shame was on full display for everyone to see, and all of us were guilty.
The solutions only doubled-down on the problem. New pills were invented which varied the color of the fart clouds according to diet. Pizza farts might still be blue, but broccoli farts were green. This just added an extra layer of discrimination and judgment to the whole mess without actually solving the problem.
Things didn’t get desperate, though, until scientists discovered that the blue fart clouds weren’t diffusing, but were in fact accumulating chemical traces in the atmosphere. Where old-school human farts had been harmless, the new visible ones were eroding the ozone at a rate never seen before. Still, people had an overpowering need to know who flamed it, and who could thus be blamed. Over time, a distinct blue tinge could be seen to hang over the entire northern hemisphere and parts of the southern, like some kind of planet-wide weather event. Very quickly, disastrous scenarios were spelled out: if people didn’t stop sabotaging one another’s farts immediately, the planet could be plunged into another ice age.
That was the Before Time. These days, seen from space, Earth is a uniform blue marble, like a baby Neptune. No sunlight ever reaches the surface and we wander the frozen tundra looking for weeds and stems to chew on. The FartCloud Fizz factories went dormant long ago. Our farts are once again as invisible as our intentions, and the real tragedy is that we don’t even giggle at them anymore.
A.C. Koch: My work has been published in F(r)iction, the Columbia Journal, Mississippi Review, and Exquisite Corpse. A story of mine was recently awarded first place in the Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction at Philadelphia Stories. I live in Denver where I teach linguistics at the University of Colorado and play guitar in a power-pop trio, Firstimers.